In January 2015 I left the state of Washington and flew into Europe via Amsterdam. There I took another flight to Paris exactly the day after the terrorist attack on Jan. 8th that sparked the Je Suis Charlie phrase. I didn’t find out until weeks later(because I don’t watch the news) that the armed military personnel at the airport and around the city were not a normal occurrence.
My reasons for going to France was simple. I needed inspiration to write. In one of my higher education classes I had the pleasure of reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and there I learned about Nice, France. I have always enjoyed the Victorian era and Nice was the place for aristocrats to vacation during the cold winters in England. If it was good enough for them it was indeed good enough for me. I made sure that my two lovely dogs (Nikkita) and (Rico) were adequately vaccinated and microchipped, and purchased both of them a place on the flight I was taking. It cost about $400 to do so. I initially intended on traveling to the U.K for a week, but soon learned that it would be more expensive to fly pets into the country, and they could only fly via an approved carrier and not under a passenger plane. Then I would have had to work with authorities to get them out of quarantine. For a week this seemed a bit excessive, so up until now I have yet to visit Big Ben or the site of Jack the Ripper’s escapades. What we do for our pets.
There are things that you should do beforehand:
- If you are a U.S citizen and you want to live longer than 3 months in France, apply while at home.
- Find websites that you like to order clothes from just in case the taste of linens don’t appeal to you.
- Use website like airbnb (I use this one) or couchsurf to find easy room and board
- If going to Paris remember taxis are expensive!!
The reason that I point these out is because of the problems that I have run into. Before leaving the U.S I thought that I had done all I needed to do in order to have a pleasant one year hiatus in Europe. I checked and saw that I didn’t need a visa at least for 3 months in the places that I was planning to visit.
Then when I got to France I found out that you could not apply for an extended visa while in the country! Make sure of wherever you go that this is an option. I couldnt apply for a student, work, or residence visa..and I would have needed to fly back to the U.S in order to get this done.
Dilemma 1: Which eventually turned into a blessing. I had to research other locations that I could go after 3 months and I found out about three countries only: U.K, Croatia, and Romania, which are still in the European Union but not a part of the Schengan area. I already discussed the problems with the U.K and my pets, so the next and closest stop was Croatia. And that is where I reside til this day. I have been here since April 2015 and I am loving it. The country is beautiful, it is pretty easy getting a visa..but you have to get on Croatian insurance and pay 5,000 kuna for a year beforehand if you are not already on any European insurance (the only drawback it seems)..the monthly price of insurance is 417 kuna which is roughly $60.
Dilemma 2: Clothes, clothes and more clothes! I didn’t have any real problems while in France looking for clothes, except for bras. I am large busted and they don’t have Victoria Secret..go figure. But the clothing website (I like to use rosewholesale or lightinthebox) turned out to be great when I reached Croatia. I lived in Zadar for almost 5 months and most of the women there are skinny..we can blame it on the by the sea lifestyle..but it is what it is. Now I am in Zadar and it is a little easier finding clothes. I am happy to say that I found a couple of different stores with my bra size, but the pants that I purchased were a little unforgiving in the backside. So you see where the website comes in handy of clothes that you can wear because I promise there is not going to be a Wal-Mart or JCPenney’s in Europe.
Dilemma 3: When I first arrived in Paris I hadn’t found a place to stay because I was only there for 3 days. This is where a website like airbnb came in handy. I could easily find a place that accepted dogs before even leaving the airport. My stay in Nice had already been pre-booked so it made for easier traveling with the kids.
Dilemma 4: There is probably no way around it but taxis in Paris ran me from 90 euros to 45 euros on average. If you are in a place longer then try to use public transportation if possible. It is definitely worth the extra time and effort. Also, be mindful if you are traveling with pets that the Euro Star does not accept animals! It is also pretty expensive. The other trains do accept pets and I got to Nice with no problem. Then I went with them through Italy and onto a ferry from Ancona, Italy to Split, Croatia. Rule of thumb in Croatia: Dogs are not allowed on buses..unless you are in the city of Zagreb. They can go on trams and buses, but Zadar they are not allowed. It is a weird system where the rules can change on you in a minute. So if you can rent a car, which are usually stick shift, or move to Zagreb like I did.
Tamuriel L. Dillard